New Clear Vision

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Toward A ‘Leaderless Revolution’ in America

February 16, 2011 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Economy, Politics, Will Wilkinson

A Growing, Yet Largely Invisible, Movement Begins to Take Hold

by Will Wilkinson

At first glance, the “leaderless revolution” in Egypt has nothing in common with the recent closing of Allyson’s, a local deli here in our small Oregon town. Until you hear why the bank called the note: “the balance and payments are due.”

Quoting from a recent article by David Porter on Egypt, “It is the slowly-accumulating momentum of hundreds of thousands of confrontations with local officials and elites … that slowly develop the courage, confidence and essential horizontal networks bubbling below the surface.”

How many Allyson’s stories are accumulating throughout America? How many business owners and employees, home owners and credit card users have had their lives turned upside down by bankers’ decisions like this one, so utterly devoid of humanity?

The banker’s quote appeared in a story carried by our local paper and it wasn’t accompanied by any mitigating compassion. Apparently he didn’t feel it was necessary to show any. It’s the golden rule in action: he who has the gold makes the rules. Period. When banks ran into trouble — through no fault of ours — we gave them billions via government bailouts. That was our money. When we run into trouble they give us rules and callous disregard. It’s happening everywhere.

A San Francisco friend tells me about his eleven months of futile communication with the bank that holds his mortgage. They lost his paperwork three times. All he wanted was to renegotiate the payments. Finally, he’s walking away. But first, he’s stopped making any payments at all. He’ll live in the house until he is forced to leave. When he does leave, the house will sit empty, tied up in red tape, while homeless people crowd the streets nearby.

A Texas couple fights Blue Cross and Blue Shield who have both denied coverage of life saving heart surgery for their newborn baby, on the basis that it is a pre-existing condition. Pre-existing? He was born with it. Reading the official responses from these companies …  it’s the same story. They simply don’t want to pay. They are in business to make money, as are the banks. Providing some sort of service is an irritating necessity. The less actually provided, the more successful these businesses are.

Meanwhile, out on the streets where we live, the anger is building towards a breaking point. How many Allyson’s closing down, how many home owners walking away (or being driven out), how many of us losing our savings to pay for health care, how many “confrontations with local officials and elites” will it take to finally get us out on the streets? When will the world start watching a “leaderless revolution” here in America? We don’t have a dictator to oust. For us, it’s a ruling oligarchy immune to influence by voting. It’s bankers, corporations, multi-whatillionaires, an enabling government, those with the gold, the power and no interest in us, beyond milking us everyday like the docile sheep they believe us to be.

The leaderless revolution in Egypt took years to develop. There wasn’t much news about it along the way. Likewise here in the good old USA. So, when it finally erupts, as it inevitably will, it may seem like a surprise. But it won’t be; it is inevitable. The only question is “When?”

But we’re innovators, at least those of us who’ve survived so far with our imaginations intact. We don’t have to wait for thousands to march together, maybe in Times Square. We’ve actually got a lot of power right now. And, ironically, our power resides in the same place it does for those who rule us: money. Imagine the day when we take our money out of those banks and begin lending it to each other? Fifty friends in our small community coming up with $5,000 each could have saved our favorite deli.

Risky? Not as risky as banks and the carnage they wreak in our communities every day. So, am I suggesting local, citizen-operated banks? Sort of. But what I imagine is more neighborly than the word “bank” can possibly ever convey now, it’s meaning forever corrupted by the heartless behavior we’re witnessing. It’s simpler, more like friends just supporting each other. Financially. What a concept. And imagine not charging interest. No interest. No taxes. Just favors between trusting friends.

Maybe someday we will be out on the streets and the world will watch breathlessly as the next American Revolution turns tables. But we can start right now without any fanfare at all, taking baby steps to regain our power, one friendly exchange at a time. We hear the stories of grief every day and it’s our friends who are telling them. How about, instead of just sympathizing and worrying that I might be next — which explains why I’m clinging to that $5,000 I’ve got stashed in the stranger’s bank — I respond in the most practical way possible? I take my hoarded wealth and put it in play. “Here, will this help?”

What have I got to lose? Well, my $5,000. So how much have I already lost to investments gone bad? To strangers? (As I write this I’m feeling a bit like I do when I wake up from a weird dream.) Why not lose mine to friends right here in my own community? But, of course, as we all know from experience, true no-strings-attached generosity always returns rewards that far exceed the value of what we offered. We do know that, because we already give and receive with each other that way. But now may be the time to start exchanging cash. It’s been the hold out. For obvious reasons. After all, it’s the symbol of what enslaves us, the currency of the middleman.

This is probably a worst-case scenario for our masters, that we make them and their paper power unnecessary. But if they aren’t going to be neighborly, why would we really want to have anything to do with them?

Will Wilkinson has just completed collaborating on Forgiving The Unforgivable, a book that recounts how survivors of the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack forgave their attackers. He lives in Ashland, Oregon, and can be reached at: [email protected].

{This article originally appeared on Common Dreams, and is reprinted here by permission of the author.}

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